The Modesty Debate–Going Deeper

If you’ve seen me in my sweat pants and favorite tattered nightshirt, chances are we’re besties. You can tell how close we are by how I dress around you and how long it took me to doll myself up. Before Bible study or church or speaking engagements, I fix my hair, put on make-up, and sift through numerous outfits. But most days, I’m in my writing attire, also known as pajamas, with my hair frizzed and mascara smudged under my eyes.

I reserve my most frightening moments for my family. (You thought bedhead was bad; try bedhead with rebellious, curly hair.)

Ladies, when did our value get tied up in our looks? Men, has your value become entangled in your strength or achievements? Both scenarios have the same root—pride.

When many of us read 1 Timothy 2:9-10, our minds instantly jump to modesty and all the ways we’re rocking this outward expression of piety. So long as our shorts reach a certain length and our bellies and other body parts are covered, we’re good.

But that’s surface thinking, and I believe God’s much more concerned with the condition of our hearts than our fashion choice. That’s not to say we should run around like millennial pop stars. What I’m saying is, if we get our hearts right, everything else will follow.

This past summer, my family and I took a Hawaiian vacation. It was an amazing time to relax, enjoy the ocean, and connect with one another. We tried new foods, experienced the Polynesian culture, and battled with a wave or two.

We opted not to rent a car and chose instead to rely on the local taxi service. The man who drove us to our hotel thought that was an absurdly expensive idea. “Why pay $50 or more for a cab,” he said, “when you can catch the bus for a couple bucks a piece?”

That sounded fun and adventurous and like a great way to experience island culture up close. So, the next day, we climbed on a bus and headed toward the North Shore community of Haleiwa. The bus ride was a bit longer than we’d anticipated, but we didn’t mind. We enjoyed meeting the locals that merged on and off the bus—teenagers dressed in flip-flops and swimsuit cover-ups, backpacks in hand. Men and women going to work, others who had just gotten off and were heading home.

Not long into our ride, an older woman climbed on. Her hands were knotted, her face leathery and tired. Her shoulders hunched. I didn’t know her story, but as I watched her, a wave of compassion swept over me. I wanted to somehow brighten her day, so whenever I caught her eye, I offered a smile and engaged her in conversation.

I felt benevolence toward her and didn’t give a thought of what I wore or how I was perceived. At that moment, I was focused on her, not me.

But then … not long after, another woman got on, this one entirely different than the first. She had an air about her—nose raised, back straight. She was eyeing everyone else as if they were beneath them. She soon struck up a conversation with another woman on the bus, someone she appeared to know. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember the overall tone. It appeared the entire point of her conversation was to let everyone else know how great she was.

It was ugly and wreaked of superiority. Filled with attempts at self-elevation—the kind one might call bragging in disguise.

Her behavior probably should’ve disgusted me. Or at the least, irritated me. Instead, it sucked me in. I found myself sitting a little taller, thinking prideful thoughts, in essence, mentally comparing myself to her, making sure, in my estimation, I came out ahead, of course.

Isn’t it interesting how, in such a short time, pride entered my heart, and instead of focusing on loving others, I began to focus on myself?

There’s that ugly self-love again, and I believe that’s the root of pride. I’m beginning to think this constant obsession with self is one of our greatest faults and most destructive tendencies.

The next morning I opened my Bible to 1 Timothy chapter 2. When I got to verses 9 and 10, it was like God had shone a flashlight into my heart, and I saw that passage in a way I hadn’t before.

In this verse, Paul tells us not to “draw attention to [ourselves] by the way [we] fix our hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” This reminds me of another verse found in Philippians 2:3, which says, “Don’t be selfish. Don’t try to impress others …”

“For women who claim to be devoted to God,” Paul goes on to say, “should make themselves attractive by the things they do” (1 Timothy 2:10, NLT).

I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about our appearance. I’m not telling everyone to toss out their nail polish and lip-gloss. Instead, what I’m saying is, as we’re dolling up, as we’re shopping and getting our nails done, and as we’re interacting with others, may we continually do a heart check. May we ask ourselves: where’s my focus? Am I seeking to elevate myself, to somehow make myself feel as if I’m better than everyone else (which is really a sign of insecurity), or am I finding ways to love others, to build them up, thinking of others as better than myself (Philippians 2:3b, NLT).

That’s hard, and unfortunately, not something I do consistently, But this is an area I want to grow in, because this is the type of behavior and attitude, the type of love, God calls me to.

Let’s talk about this! What about you? What were your initial thoughts when you read today’s passage? How easy is it for you to “consider others more important than yourselves?” What does that look like in the day to day, and how do you think that relates to Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:9-10?

What Is To Come

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Iris Peters, faithful daughter of Christ, 1973-2012

As death grew closer for my sweet friend, Iris Peters, a woman who valiantly battled brain cancer, our conversations turned increasingly toward heaven. She had so many questions, and as she and I wrestled with this heavy and pressing topic, we realized it wasn’t often addressed in the evangelical community.

Why is that? It can be hard to have an eternal perspective when our longing is never fed. But if we truly understood what awaits us, what God has prepared for us, our every breath would be, “Come Lord Jesus, come.”

This, my friend, is why I consider my chronic illness and pain a blessing–because it daily reminds me, as Mary Bowen, my guest proclaims, that “The Best is Yet to Be.” As you read her post, pause to rest in God’s presence this morning. And dream with me about the day when there will be no more sadness, no more sin and destruction, and no more pain.

The Best is Yet to Be
by Mary Bowen

We’ve all felt it, a “quiet but throbbing ache,” as Joni Eareckson Tada calls it in Heaven, Your Real Home. Inside we can sense a restless yearning for more and better. The relentless alarm-clock-590383_640ticking of the clock often seems like an enemy, snatching away our pleasant moments all too soon. Time makes us feel as if we’re caught in a strong current rushing downstream towards the waterfall of death.

Why do we long for permanent peace and love? Because we were created for them. “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men. . .” (Eccl. 3:11). God made us for heaven: “. . .so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose. . .” (2 Cor. 5:4, 5). In the Trinity God enjoys such wonderful fellowship that He created us for this same intimate communion with Himself and one another. (The Sacred Romance).

Last summer I reveled in my “happy place” on the patio with the purple, yellow, orange and fuchsia of our flowers. But I don’t want to just see beauty, I want to experience it, as C.S. Lewis wrote, “. . . to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it” (The Weight of Glory, 1949).  We’ll do that in heaven.

Our happiest times with family and friends seem to pull back heaven’s mysterious curtain, revealing a glimpse of our life to come.  In his comprehensive book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn landscape-1590888_640tantalizes with descriptions of rich fellowship, incredible beauty and joy, and adventures. We’ll each have exciting assignments from God.

So it’s not just floating around on clouds playing a harp and enduring endless worship services? I sighed with relief when I discovered that heaven won’t be boring, because God isn’t. We are “destined for unlimited pleasure at the deepest level,” writes Joni (Heaven. . . Your Real Home, 1995). The famous poet Robert Browning affirmed, “There’s a further good conceivable beyond the utmost earth can realize” (“Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau,” 1871).

As we set our hearts and minds on things above (Col. 3:1,2), we are pleasing God. Life on earth will never satisfy us completely. Disappointments and heartaches make us long for heaven. Yet our trials are not wasted, but actually count for something. A godly response to them will be rewarded in heaven. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, person-371015_640but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Appearances are everything in our society; an athlete’s ability, a model’s figure are all admired. But their strength and beauty diminish with time, finally pushing them to the outside as younger ones step in to take their place. How we all fear aging! Yet for the Christian, each day brings us closer to heaven. We can accept what others fear, because we know that our time on earth is not the end of the story. C. S. Lewis wrote that this life is like only the title page of a book, and chapter one starts in heaven. Then, each successive chapter will be better than the last. . .”The [school] term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning!” (The Last Battle, 1956).

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dscn1905Mary Bowen writes and edits for Grace Ministries International in Marietta, Georgia. For many years her articles and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She has worked as a reporter and freelancer, and served as an editor with the North American Mission Board.

 

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Mary shared such a joyful post on our life to come! Do you experience joy at the thought of being with Jesus? What are you looking forward to most? Do you feel fear when you consider death? If so, I would love to pray for you.

Leave your thoughts–and encouragement!–in the comments below or over on Living By Grace on Facebook. We can learn so much from one another!

 

Revealing Your Beauty Through Flight

Do you feel average? Unnoticed? Like the easiest thing for you to do would be to blend in with the masses? Get up, go to work, go home, eat, go to bed, repeat. Like millions of Americans do each day. Settling for the plainness of mediocracy, never revealing their true, glorious, Christ-revealing beauty.

Colorado May 2015 009Today my guest Janet K. Brown, author of Worth Her Weight shares an insightful lesson God showed her through a seemingly plain creature.

The Unordinary Oriole

By Janet K. Brown

A beautiful oriole ministered to me on our recent visit to Aurora, Colorado. Our daughter’s house, like most in that area, sprawls the foothills of the Rockies, and hiking trails wind up and down, linking one trail after another. If I had the strength, I could hike for many miles. I stick with the two mile loop nearby.

While hiking, I noticed one shaggy pine that appeared to be home to a bird that I didn’t recognize. My husband researched and discovered it was an orchard oriole. Orioles hide in trees and feed on fruits and insects.

I noticed when the oriole perched in the tree, I could barely see it. The top of its head, body, and wings were black and blended with the trunk of the pine. Even when my husband or daughter said it was in the tree, I could search and search and not spot it. When the bird took flight, however, my eyes lifted and watched the graceful swoop.

“How beautiful,” I said. The bird’s breast and the bottom of its wings were brilliant orange, but without the flight, I couldn’t seebranch-386907_1280 its hidden beauty.

Are we not the same as the ordinary oriole?

My mother had a saying, “He puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like me.” I have two legs, two arms, and average intelligence. There’s nothing special about me. When I keep quiet and don’t strive for excellence, I blend with other woman around me. Like the oriole, I hide in my tree. When I weighed two hundred and fifty pounds, and my self esteem was as low as our North Texas red dirt, I wanted to hide.

God healed me emotionally and showed me the meaning of this verse:

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV).

With this hope, I spread my wings and wrote my books and taught my classes, and showed the beautiful orange side of me that God created.

The oriole is ordinary until it flies.

So, are we.

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Janet K. Brown lives in Wichita Falls, Texas with her husband, Charles. Writing became her second career after retiring from medical coding.

Worth Her Weight is the author’s first inspirational women’s fiction, but it makes a perfect companion to her previously released, Divine Dining: 365 Devotions to Guide You to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness. Both books encompass her passion for diet, fitness, and God’s Word. Worth Her Weight marks Brown’s third book. Who knew she had a penchant for teens and ghosts? She released her debut novel, an inspirational young adult, Victoria and the Ghost, in July, 2012.

Janet and her husband love to travel with their RV, work in their church, and visit their three daughters, two sons-in-law and three perfect grandchildren. She teaches workshops on writing, weight loss, and the historical settings of her teen books.

Visit her online at http:/ /www.janetkbrown.com, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/janetkbrowntx, or on Facebook, and contact her by E-mail at: Janet(dot)hope(at)att(dot)net

Worth Her Weight:

How can a woman who gives to everyone but herself accept God’s love and healing when she believes she’s fat, unworthy, and unfixable? Can she be Worth Her Weight?

Lacey Chandler helps her mother, her sister, her friend, and then she binges on food and wonders is there really a God? Betty Chandler hates being handicapped and useless, so she lashes out at the daughter that helps, and the God who doesn’t seem to care. Toby Wheeler loves being police chief in Wharton Rock, but when the devil invades the small town, he can’t release control.

Is God enough in Wharton Rock?

Buy it HERE!  Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & at your local bookstore.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this!

 

Are you in hiding? Avoiding risks or certain opportunities to spread your wings and fly? That first step can be excruciatingly terrifying, but oh, the freedom we experience when we finally experience the beauty of full flight–of full surrender. Pause to prayerfully consider in what ways you’re hiding right now. Perhaps it’s relationally. Maybe you’ve been hurt so many times in the past, you’ve begun to hide behind your defenses. Or maybe it’s in your career, or in ministry. But like Janet says, we have not been given a spirit of fear, and our beauty, or rather, God’s beauty, is best displayed when we step out of hiding, spread our wings, and fly.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

When Being Beautiful Turns Ugly

Our daughter has always been our little princess. As a little girl, she loved hats and dresses and those annoying feather boas that shed all over the carpet. It was cute. Harmless. But for many young women, this desire to be pretty can turn obsessive–destructive. How can we, as parents, help our teens accept themselves as God made them, and does our media make this harder? Today multi-published author Linore Rose Burkard challenges us to engage our teens in this battle for beauty.

Linore is also giving away a copy of one of her books–winners choice. I will randomly select the winner from those commenting on this post. (Visit her website to check out all her novels.)

Note: the winner of the last give-away is listed below.

When Being Beautiful Turns Ugly

by Linore Rose Burkard

Note: This is something I wrote a few years ago for a column called “Media and the Home.” It was a standing feature of Dionna Sanchez’s blog, “Inner Fulfillment.”  I still have three young women beneath my roof, one of whom is only nine. The topic here is just as relevant today as it was then, and not just for my family but for any parent of a girl.

When Being Beautiful Turns Ugly
Parents today are concerned about media influences on their kids, and with good cause. Suicide is the second-highest cause of death among teenagers in the US—after car accidents. Why are so many young people killing themselves?
The answers are complex, and stem from the breakdown of the family, legalized abortion (which devalues human life), the loss of faith in society as a whole (if there’s no God, how does life have meaning or purpose?) and, finally, an unrealistic sense of failure to measure up.
Measure up to what?
All too often, the media’s idea of how and what they should be. And nowhere is this insidious idea more powerful to young psyches than in the area of appearance. Teens are hard on each other, but not nearly as hard as they can be on themselves, especially when they compare themselves to photo-shopped images. Beauty gets ugly really fast when it takes on visions of perfection that are simply unattainable.
Young women are particularly vulnerable to the society-fueled obsession with weight and appearance, as they are constantly bombarded with images of hyped-up beauty. From Britney to Sleeping Beauty to Barbie, women are supposed to be slim and flawless. School teachers report that girls as young as nine and ten can be heard worrying about over-eating and being on diets. Meanwhile, at the same time, there is so much computer and video game usage today that staying in healthy shape is a greater challenge for today’s kids than ever before.
As a parent, I struggle to find ways to affirm my girls’ attractiveness—just the way they are—when there is so much out there telling them a different message. At age ten, my middle daughter is now saying to me (when I tell her how beautiful she is), “You only think that because you’re my mother!” Or, “You’re supposed to say that because I’m your daughter.” She is already internalizing society’s message that being “beautiful” is directly correlated to how sexy you are, and what brand or type of clothing you wear. She might not put it that way, but this is what it comes down to.
Where is she getting these ideas?
They are seeping in from all sides! We have a protected environment in our home—to a degree. (No TV, just selected videos and DVDs) but as I mentioned earlier, even Barbie is picture-perfect and skinnier than Twiggy.
On an up note, Dove (the beauty products manufacturer) has produced a video showing the transformation of an ordinary girl (read: could be your daughter. Could be you!) into a super-glamorous billboard model. I had both my daughters view this and my ten-year-old was shocked. It’s an eye-opening message we need to get out.

 

 

I suggest you view this with your daughters–and your sons(Guys can get unrealistic expectations, too). After viewing the video, make it a point to pick up magazines that show stars “as they really are”. Celebrities hate this, but it’s a shot in the arm for girls who are struggling with self-image or self-worth issues (and what girls do not?). Finally, remember to affirm that God has created them specially (they’re not an accident); He has a personal plan for their life (purpose); and they ARE beautiful—truly beautiful–in Christ, just the way they are.

 

Once you watch the video let me know what you think. Do you have an effective method for instilling your girls with a confidence that doesn’t come solely from what they see in the mirror? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Warmest Blessings,

Linore

Linore Rose Burkard writes Historical Romance to Warm the Soul. She delights in bringing the Regency to life for readers through adventurous, romantic tales. Ms. Burkard’s novels include the award winners Before the Season Ends, The House in Grosvenor Square, and, The Country House Courtship.  When not writing novels, Ms. Burkard conducts workshops for writers with  Greater Harvest Workshops, and writes e-newsletters for 2200 historical romance fans.  Raised in New York where she graduated from CUNY with a magna cum laude degree in English Literature, Linore now lives in Ohio with her husband, five children, a Shorkie and two cats.

Linore’s novel, Before the Season Ends:

In her debut novel of what she calls “spirited romance for the Jane Austen soul,” author Linore Rose Burkard tells the intriguing story of Miss Ariana Forsythe, a young woman caught between her love for a man who doesn’t share her faith and her resolution to marry only a fellow believer in Christ.

Trouble at home sends the young woman to her aunt’s townhome in the fashionable Mayfair district of London. There she finds worse troubles than those that prompted her flight from home. Ariana is soon neck–deep in high society and at odds with Mr. Phillip Mornay, London’s current darling rogue. Then a scandal changes Ariana forever. Her heart, her faith, and her future are all at stake in an unexpected adventure that gains even the Prince Regent’s attention.

Will Ariana’s faith survive this test? And what about her heart? For it’s Ariana’s heart that most threatens to betray the truths she has always believed in. When she finds herself backed against a wall, betrothed to the wrong young man, how can it ever turn out right?

Jane Austen readers and fans of Regency romances everywhere will love Before the Season Ends.

The winner of Susan Sleeman’s Deadly Exposure is Connie Ruggles. Congrats, Connie! I’ll be sending you an email shortly to get your mailing address.

Let’s talk about this. I love Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

As parents, how can we put this verse into action? How can we encourage our teens to have transformed, counter-culture thinking? Join us at Living by Grace today as we talk about engaging our teens in order to help center them on Christ and His will.

And make sure to come back to Living By Grace Friday and Saturday for a continuation of our in-depth look at the book of James.

A Glimpse of Beauty by Sheila Hollinghead

Sometimes I spend so much time focused on the day-to-day, I lose sight of those tender little “kisses from God” He sprinkles throughout my day. Which is what I would call Sheila’s deer sighting. You might not like my term, but the Bible tells us that creation reveals God’s divine nature. God speaks to us day in and day out, in a gentle breeze that tickles our cheek, reminding us to pause to pray. In a night sky filled with twinkling stars that remind us of His infinite wisdom and power. In a tender fawn, prancing through the meadow, reminding us of God’s tender heart. God is there, all around us, always with us. The question is, will we draw near the Creator or remain content to admire His creation? Perhaps this week you can find time to admire a night sky or watch the sun explode across the horizon. As you do, stop and think of the Creator, and turn that admiration into an opportunity for praise. May every sunrise and sunset, every flake of snow, every blade of grass, draw your heart to the Creator in a fresh, authentic way.

The following article was first posted on Sheila Hollinghead’s blog, Clearing Skies, on November 10th, 2010. (The post she has up today is also worth reading.)

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We drove the busy highway by our home on Sunday and twin fawns lay by the side of the road, eyes intent on the passing traffic. In fear for their safety, Carl turned the car around and we drove closer to them, hoping we would scare them away from the highway. They stood on wobbly, long legs and moved a few feet away. But they did so with an awkward grace, not in fear.

Eyes wide, large ears erect, fur still dotted with white spots, they stared at us as we stared at them. No camera in the car to capture their beauty—a beauty to be short-lived if they remained by the highway. Carl drove by them one more time and they moved a short way into the woods, their mother nowhere to be seen.

Had she already crossed the highway and her fawns were too afraid to follow her? Was she still hiding somewhere in the woods? Had some hunter left the fawns motherless? Carl believed the mother crossed the highway and waited out of sight. With our good intentions, did we make it more difficult for the family to reunite? Or had we saved the fawns from death?

We will never know. I do know we glimpsed the beauty of God’s creation, as we do every day when we open our eyes.  We live on a farm with a pond about a hundred feet away from our front door and are surrounded by the artistry of God, but, like a museum guard at the Louvre, are desensitized to it all. Unless we make a conscious effort to actually see.

And some days I do. I open my eyes to the beauty of hay bales scattered across our field and to the beauty of a hawk circling above and to the beauty of the crescent remnant of the harvest moon in the blue sky, hung above the trees that line the hayfield.

Hay bales, dead grass rolled up to provide sustenance to livestock; the hawk, a presager of death; the crescent, the disappearing moon, and yet, in all, a beauty.

The browning grass will green next year. The hawk will soar ever higher. The waning moon will vanish but to reappear.

By our faith we know these things will come to pass if God so wills. Our faith gives us a glimpse of beauty even in death.

And for that I am thankful.

Psalm 19:1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.

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Sheila has a B.S. in biology from Alabama’s Troy University and did post-graduate work at Auburn University and Columbus College. At Southern Junior High in Columbus, Georgia, she taught middle-school science for five years. After moving to Opp, Alabama, she continued teaching science and math for fourteen more years at Fleeta Junior High. In 1995 she retired and has since devoted much of her time to the study of the Bible and to her writing. Her blog is the inspirational Clearing Skies.

I am going to close with one final thought. God reveals Himself through creation and His Word, the Bible. He does this so that men would seek Him, and He has promised that if we seek Him, if we truly want to know Him, He will come to us. His greatest longing is to be our dearest friend. Creation is a beautiful gift intended to draw our heart to the ultimate gift giver. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Redeemer, if you have never experienced the freedom of authentic love that penetrates to your very core, turn to Him today.

Responding to God

You can also listen to a great radio drama about a man named Nicodemus who met the Savior face to face. (Click on “Series One” then the orange sound symbol at the end of “Nicodemus–The man who came at night.”

As always, feel free to shoot me an email with any questions. I’d love to talk and pray with you, anytime. jenniferaslattery@gmail.com

And remember, if you like this post and think it should make it in the top three of 2010, leave a comment, fb share it, “like” it, or tweet it and at the end of the month, I’ll tally all tweets, shares, likes and comments and will reveal the top three. (My comments and author responses do not count.)

When storm clouds loom and the cold wind blows

With dark clouds looming overhead, a cold wind blowing and the melodious sound of rain dripping on my roof, I am ready to lose myself in a world of make-believe. For children, that means finding a ball of yarn that can be turned into a beautiful princess about to be rescued by her prince charming…ah, but we have left such fanciful notions behind, along with the toys that once cluttered our lives, to pursue much more meaningful and purposeful ideals like responsibility and efficiency and success. But for those of us who look back upon those days–those days that were filled with tales of enchanted horses and starry nights–with longing, we can, if but temporarily, enter into a world of adventure and beauty, allowing an eloquent flow of words to flood our hearts until we have once again entered that place of unhindered imagination. Today this is where I will be, cuddled up with a great book that beckons me to leave the rest of the world behind…if but only for a day.